Catherine Engelbrecht, the founder of the “voter integrity” group True the Vote, told “Breitbart News Daily” this morning that the Obama administration is likely intentionally signing up noncitizens to vote.
Engelbrecht told Breitbart’s Alex Marlow that “there’s potential” for noncitizens voting “to be a very big threat” in the election. She cited the “motor voter” law that allows people to register to vote when obtaining government services if they affirm their citizenship under oath.
Engelbrecht claimed that the “citizenship metatag gets scrubbed out very quickly” as these documents make their way through government agencies, so “it is absolutely a real thing to worry about noncitizens voting.”
“And it’s hard to look at the situation any other way except to believe that it’s been done intentionally by this administration,” she concluded.
Last week, True the Vote was behind a false report that the man who shot five people in a Washington state mall had voted illegally as a noncitizen.
The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins interviewed Rep. Louie Gohmert yesterday about reports, which turned out to be erroneous, that the man who shot five people in a Washington state mall last weekend had voted three times despite not being a citizen. Gohmert was positively jubilant about the false report, saying that it was “the perfect evidence” to contradict “liberal judges” who say that there is no widespread voting by noncitizens.
Gohmert, a Texas Republican, then linked the story to efforts to pass criminal justice reform legislation, claiming that Democrats are relying on the votes of “felons,” “people that can't speak English”—who he claimed are unable to follow the news—and undocumented immigrants in order to win elections.
“But, you know, what does it say about your party if you want felons to vote and you want people who don’t speak English to vote and you want people that are here illegally to vote?” he asked. “If your platform will only get voted into office by those people—felons, people that can’t speak English and haven’t been able to follow personally what’s actually going on in politics without getting an interpretation, and those who are illegally here, show no regard for the law—I would think you’d need to think about changing your platform.”
The congressman added that the Washington shooter “seems to be a big fan of Hillary Clinton,” which shows who “the Democrat drones” are.
Perkins responded that the Obama administration is “trying to basically flood the zone” with “Syrian refugees and others” in order to help Democrats.
“Exactly,” Gohmert replied. “And they know which party will be most helpful to them who have no regard for the law.”
People who have served time for felonies are in fact allowed to vote in many states, thanks to bipartisan efforts to restore their voting rights. While most naturalized citizens are required to pass an English test, in many cases election materials are translated for those with less English proficiency. However, Democrats are not allowing undocumented immigrants to vote without obtaining citizenship, as Gohmert asserts.
True the Vote, the Texas-based Tea Party group that is on a mission to uncover widespread voter fraud in order to promote suppressive voting measures, thought it had a winning story earlier this week when it announced that it had discovered that Arcan Cetin, the man accused of shooting five people at a mall in Washington state last weekend, had illegally voted as a noncitizen in three elections.
The story was quickly picked up by conservative media hoping to fan the flames of the story that noncitizens—and even murderous noncitizens—are out in great numbers stealing our elections.
The only problem was that Cetin is in fact a naturalized U.S. citizen and therefore was legally eligible to vote.
Seattle’s King 5 yesterday updated a story in which it had questioned Cetin’s citizenship, confirming that he was indeed a citizen when he voted:
UPDATE: KING 5 learned Thursday that Arcan Cetin, the 20-year-old who killed five people at Cascade Mall on Sept. 23, is in fact a U.S. citizen.
For days after the shooting, Cetin was described by local and federal law enforcement as being a permanent U.S. resident. He immigrated to the U.S. from Turkey when he was a child, after his mother married an American citizen.
On Thursday, a federal official told KING that further investigation revealed that Cetin is a naturalized U.S. citizen. That means he was legally registered to vote.
KING's initial story on Sept. 28 questioned state officials about how Cetin could register and vote without being a citizen.
Actor Jon Voight, who introduced Donald Trump at this weekend’s Values Voter Summit, gave an interview at the summit to the “Breitbart News Daily” radio program, where he echoed Trump’s claim that the election might be “rigged,” claiming that Democrats have “a history of manipulating the voting.”
“I have great concerns about the ballot box being used properly,” he said. “We know that the Democrat Party has a history of manipulating the voting. They certainly will allow anyone in the country who will vote their way and then take away all the restrictions on voting in order to make that possible, so it’s going to be a tough election.”
True the Vote, a Tea Party group that’s working to organize poll-watchers to prevent a “flood of illegal voters” from stealing the 2016 election, organized a conference call last week to explain how a consent decree that the Republican National Committee signed in the 1980s “makes True the Vote the only hope for election integrity this year.”
True the Vote president Catherine Engelbrecht invited a man named Greg Phillips, who she said runs a cyber-security firm, to discuss potential threats to election security, including the recent reported hacks of elections systems in two states. Phillips dismissed the threat of cyberattacks against state elections systems, speculating that the Obama administration may have orchestrated the reported hack in order to justify taking control of elections in the states.
“What the left always does,” he said, “is they create a problem and then they solve their own problem by letting the federal government take it over … All of us in this industry know that the DOJ control of elections is what many of these presidents have wanted and certainly what the DOJ has wanted, but this lawless DOJ, whether it was under the previous attorney general or under the current attorney general, they seek to control all elections. And so they believe, I think, if they go out and they create a problem—they likely, it’s possible they even hired these hackers. They have scores of white-hat hackers that go around doing this kind of thing.”
Their goal in doing such a thing, he said, would have been “to raise enough fear” to justify a federal takeover of elections.
Engelbrecht responded that “there may in fact be a real threat [of] cyberattacks out there or we are citizens in a country whose government is trying to engineer an outcome that would spark fear enough to put elections into the hands of the federal government. It’s all pretty sinister.”
The American Family Association’s Sandy Rios wondered this morning if the Department of Homeland Security’s announcement that it may designate electronic voting systems as “critical infrastructure” in order to guard against cyberattacks is in fact the “creepy laying of groundwork” for an Obama administration plot to blame Russian hackers for a Trump victory in November in order to overturn the results.
Rios, the AFA’s governmental affairs director and an American Family Radio host, asked the Heritage Foundation’s Hans von Spakovsky about the news on her radio program this morning.
“So this really is, honestly, it just seems like, oh boy, the creepy laying of groundwork for something that could be really bad,” she said. “Like, okay, I’m going to step off the plank here. Let’s say maybe the election ends up being really, really close and because they’ve already laid the groundwork that Donald Trump is connected with Putin, they’re best buddies according to—well, he claimed that he had a relationship with him and then they claimed, the left claims that he has a really good relationship with him and now they’re inferring that the Russians may mess with the election.
“So, gee, if it’s close, maybe it’s probably the Russians, then, that are messing with our election apparatus and so then the Justice Department and the executive branch come in to kind of fix it. Right, Hans, something like that?”
Von Spakovsky responded that while he “wouldn’t quite go so far as them blaming it on the Russians,” the Obama administration could use the DHS’s move to place “virulent left-wing partisans” from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division in polling places to falsely claim that there is voter suppression taking place in swing states.
“So they would be in the polling places,” he said, “and they would be the ones coming out, maybe in a state that’s close, saying, ‘Oh, we saw all kinds of voter suppression efforts going on in that precinct, in that area, and therefore that throws in doubt the results of the election’ if their favored candidate loses.”
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is a right-wing activist who has championed anti-immigrant and voter suppression efforts around the country and has helped to insert right-wing rhetoric into recent Republican platforms. As Miranda reported this month, Kobach is pushing his fellow Republicans to adopt legislation modeled after the disastrously restrictive voting law he helped push through in Kansas. The September 8 issue of Rolling Stone looks at one of Kobach’s ventures in “The GOP’s Stealth War Against Voters.”
The Rolling Stone story by journalist and author Greg Palast examines Crosscheck, a Kobach project that Palast calls “the culmination of a decade-long Republican effort to disenfranchise voters under the guise of battling voter fraud.” The Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program is ostensibly designed to target a virtually nonexistent form of voter fraud. In reality, it helps promote the Right Wing's bogus voter fraud narrative, which in turn provides justification for otherwise unjustifiable laws that restrict voting. In the worst case scenario, Crosscheck could lead to thousands of people, predominantly people of color and young voters, being wrongly purged from voting rolls in advance of November’s election.
Crosscheck compares voter registration lists in different states to identify individuals who are registered in more than one place. Theoretically, it requires matches on a voter's first, middle and last name, along with birth date and the final four digits of a social security number, but in reality, it doesn’t always work as advertised. As we noted a couple years ago, Crosscheck’s data was so unreliable that Florida and Oregon dropped out of the program.
Palast says he was able to get his hands on Crosscheck lists from Virginia, Georgia and Washington state, and found that the lists often lacked a middle-name match and misidentified fathers and sons as the same voter. He cites database expert Mark Swedlund, who criticizes Crosscheck’s “childish methodology.” He also notes that U.S. Census data indicates that people of color are statistically more likely to have last names in common, leading to an “astonishing” inherent bias in the results, with “one in six Hispanics, one in seven Asian-Americans, and one in nine African Americans in Crosscheck states landing on the list.” And Donald Trump complains the election is rigged against him!
“God forbid your name is Garcia, of which there are 858,000 in the U.S., and your first name if Joseph or Jose,” says Swedlund. “You’re probably suspected of voting in 27 states.”
It is up to each state to decide how it uses the data from Crosscheck; some send the lists to county officials who don’t have the resources to verify their accuracy. Rolling Stone reports that Crosscheck “has flagged close to half a million voters” in Ohio, and that 41,000 people were knocked off voting rolls in Virginia when it was under Republican control.
Even if state and local officials don’t end up using the data to initiate major purges, Crosscheck’s inflated numbers can be used to buttress false right-wing claims that voter fraud is a big problem. That mythology has been particularly damaging in the aftermath of rulings from conservative justices on the Supreme Court dismantling key Voting Rights Act protections, which allowed Republican officials in many states to pass laws aimed at making it harder for some people, particularly people of color and young people, to register and vote. And, says Palast, gutting the Voting Rights Act also meant dropping the requirement for covered states to keep racial data on voters, making it harder to document discriminatory practices.
Shortly after Donald Trump declared that if he loses the presidential election, it will probably have been “rigged,” his campaign announced that it would be recruiting poll watchers to “stop crooked Hillary from rigging this election.”
True the Vote, a group that has led the way in promoting the myth that massive voter fraud by undocumented immigrants is shifting election results, is heeding the call.
In an email to supporters yesterday, True the Vote president Catherine Engelbrecht, a former Texas Tea Party activist, asked for donations to train poll workers and relaunch the organization’s poll-watching app. The email linked to a video appeal in which Engelbrecht warns that a “flood of illegal voters” could “turn over the Senate, the House and thousands of down-ballot elections, with the Supreme Court as the ultimate prize.”
She warns that people registering to vote when they get coverage through the Affordable Care Act and the movement to provide drivers’ licenses to undocumented immigrants are part of the “assault on freedom” that will result in undocumented immigrants stealing elections.
In-person voter fraud, which is what voter ID laws are supposedly meant to combat, is exceedingly rare, as are cases of noncitizen immigrants casting ballots. Even those rare cases often involve legal immigrants who are confused about the rules, rather than undocumented immigrants, who could risk even harsher penalties.
The chaos that has marked this election cycle will soon culminate in a perfect storm, a storm that will mask an underlying flood of illegal voters. Obamacare has registered millions since 2014. A year ago, illegals were given drivers’ licenses in states ranging from California to Maryland. A few months ago, leftists sued in federal court asking the judge to prevent states from stopping illegal aliens who are trying to vote. And the assault on freedom has continued into this summer, when Soros-funded leftists attacked voter ID laws in courts nationwide.
Now, while the American people are screaming to stop the madness, the Republican Party has chosen to cower and zero resources have been committed to election integrity. True the Vote is preparing to stand in that gap, stand against the storm that threatens to turn over the Senate, the House and thousands of down-ballot elections, with the Supreme Court as the ultimate prize. We plan to deploy thousands of people trained to keep watch for fraud, illegal voters and hackers bent on stealing the election, but we must raise $250,000 during August to ensure implementation.
As elections expert Rick Hasen has explained, while it’s common for campaigns to deploy observers to polling places, Trump’s “incendiary” rhetoric “seems to be an invitation to go and make trouble.”
True the Vote has a history of skirting this line. The group, which like Trump has suggested that Clinton could steal the upcoming election, sends volunteers to polling places, often in minority neighborhoods, leading to some charges of intimidating voters. When True the Vote launched its poll-watching app in 2014, it uncovered little evidence of even potential fraud but did unveil one case of an “African American woman” poll worker standing in a polling place in what one user thought was an intimidating manner.
In her email to supporters yesterday, Engelbrecht claimed that the Republican National Committee is powerless to “coordinate a ballot security program because of a consent decree they signed with the federal court.” She was referring to an agreement that the RNC signed after it was caught running a “voter caging” operation in minority neighborhoods in New Jersey in the 1980s. The agreement prevents the RNC from conducting such operations targeted at minority neighborhoods, but does allow the party to conduct “normal poll watching” activities.
Breitbart’s Ken Klukowski has a dispatch from Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s latest effort to spread his innovative voter suppression policies around the country. Over the weekend, Kobach spoke at an American Civil Rights Union event at the Republican National Lawyers Association convention in Colorado, where he urged his fellow election officials and lawyers to adopt legislation modeled after a law he helped push through in Kansas.
Kansas’ voter ID law is one of the harshest in the country, requiring that those registering to vote produce “proof of citizenship” such as a passport, birth certificate or naturalization papers. Since the law went into effect in 2013, it has been caught up in legal battles as it wreaks havoc with the state’s elections.
In May, a federal judge ruled that Kansas couldn’t require people registering using a federal form to produce the burdensome extra documentation. In response, Kobach tried to set up a two-tier voting system in which people who registered using the federal form could only vote in federal elections and would be barred from casting ballots in state and local races. Then, in a last-minute decision, another federal judge ruled that Kobach couldn’t throw out the primary votes of more than 17,000 people who hadn’t produced the extra documentation, including many who had registered using the federal form.
As Klukowski reports, this is precisely the model that Kobach hopes will be adopted in every single state:
The Republican National Lawyers Association (RNLA) held a national election law seminar in Denver on Friday and Saturday, and the American Civil Rights Union (ACRU) convened an invitation-only event alongside RNLA’s seminar, featuring several secretaries of state, chief election officers, Republican former and current federal elections officials, and constitutional lawyers, to explore strategies to protect against voter fraud. Kobach spoke at both events.
During the ACRU event, Kobach touted his SAFE Act, which was designed to require proof of U.S. citizenship and proof of identity in a manner fulfilling the requirements the U.S. Supreme Court has held are consistent with the Constitution. It is model legislation for states to adopt as part of their election laws, rather than a federal law, since the Constitution entrusts the sovereign states with primary responsibility for holding elections.
Speaking exclusively with Breitbart News in Denver at the ACRU event, Kobach said, “Every time an alien votes, it cancels out the vote of a United States citizen. This is a nationwide problem.”
“Every state needs to address it and take steps to secure the most fundamental privilege of citizenship—the vote,” he added.
Kobach, who also specializes in draconian anti-immigrant legislation, acts like something of a one-man American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the group that helps spread conservative and corporate-friendly laws to state legislatures. In fact, Kobach responded on his weekly radio program last month to a critic who called him an “ALEC pawn,” saying that he is the one who is trying to get ALEC to spread voter restrictions across the country.
“I’ve been trying to get the American Legislative Exchange Council interested in photo ID and proof of citizenship,” he said. “They never called me and said, ‘Hey, Kobach, would you do this?’ I’ve been trying to get them off their backside and get them encouraging other states to do it.”
Many Republican leaders seemed shock that a candidate like Donald Trump would rise to become the party’s nominee after a campaign of demonizing immigrants, innuendo about President Obama and scapegoating Muslims, despite the fact that many top GOP leaders have launched similar attacks for years.
Trump has also benefited from Republicans’ frequent insistence that Democrats use voter fraud to win elections. Republican lawmakers have brushed aside studies that show that voter fraud is extremely rare — just 31 out of over a billion votes cast over 14 years may have been instances of voter impersonation — and instead have pursued sweeping legislation that would disenfranchise thousands of voters, particularly people of color and young people.
The GOP presidential candidate has told supporters that November’s election results will likely be “rigged” as people go “ to vote 10 times maybe” and charged that “phony” polls underrepresent his level of support because they don’t reflect his the size of the crowds at his rallies.
Ari Berman points out that if “Trump wanted to vote 10 times in New York — a state that requires voters to sign their names at the polls rather than show a photo ID — he’d have to vote in 10 different places, know the names and addresses of nine different registered voters in nine precincts, be able to forge their exact signatures, and know that they hadn’t voted yet. Each fraudulent vote would carry a penalty of five years in jail and a $10,000 fine, plus additional state penalties.”
Nonetheless, Trump believes that if he loses in November, it will be because the election was stolen: “I hope the Republicans are watching closely or it’s going to be taken away from us.”
Such baseless rhetoric has obviously resonated with Republicans:Around half of GOP voters believe that Obama stole both of his election victories, a result of years of conservative complaints about how Democrats win elections thanks to massive fraud.
One anti-voting-fraud group, True the Vote, developed a smart phone app in 2014 to help users expose instances of fraudulent voting and “pull the curtain back on the myth that there is no voter fraud.” But as Miranda noted, “users recorded only 18 incidents of election irregularities,” and the vast majority had nothing to do with voter impersonation. Many right-wing fears about widespread voter fraud have made their way from chain emails to WorldNetDaily to Fox News, even though there is little evidence behind them.
Besides voter impersonation, many Republicans claim that undocumented immigrants are illegally voting in elections. Then-Rep. Michele Bachmann claimed that Obama unlawfully granted the right to vote to millions of undocumented immigrants before the 2012 election, even though Obama’s executive order on deportations did not grant anyone the right to vote. Fox News pundits have also raised the specter of undocumented immigrants illegally voting, even though in states like Arizona, there have only been two cases of undocumented residents voting in about 10 years. Several conservative commentators have even alleged that the Obama administration tried to win votes by handing out free cellphones.
In fact, far more common than actual cases of voter fraud or instances of conservatives admitting that the voter fraud myth is all about creating an excuse to pass restrictive laws that will help them win elections. Just a few months ago, former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, now president of the influential Heritage Foundation, said that voter ID laws are “something we’re working on all over the country, because in the states where they do have voter ID laws you’ve seen, actually, elections begin to change towards more conservative candidates.” Shortly before that, Republican Rep. Glenn Grothman said that voter ID could make a difference in how his state votes in the upcoming election: “Hillary Clinton is about the weakest candidate the Democrats have ever put up and now we have voter ID and I think voter ID is going to make a little bit of a difference as well.”
Donald Trump has never met a conspiracy theory that he doesn’t like. This one was handed to him on a silver platter by the party that is now trying to distance itself from his wildest claims.
Jim DeMint, the former South Carolina senator and Tea Party firebrand who is now the president of the Heritage Foundation, became the latest in a string of conservatives to admit that restrictive voting laws such as voter ID requirements are an attempt to help Republicans win elections, telling a St. Louis radio host yesterday that voter ID laws help elect “more conservative candidates.”
Talk radio host Jamie Allman asked DeMint about Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s move to restore the voting rights of people in the state who had served time for felonies, a draconian restriction that disproportionately affected African-Americans by design. DeMint responded that McAuliffe’s action was “awfully suspicious” and tied it to what he claimed was a Democratic plan to get votes from “illegals” and through “voter fraud.”
“Well, it’s awfully suspicious coming into a big election in a state where it’s actually pretty close,” he said. “I mean, states can decide who votes, but the governor themselves without legislative action, that seems over the top to me. I haven’t seen an complete analysis here, but the left is trying to draw votes from illegals, from voter fraud, a lot of different things, so this kind of fits right in to trying to find another group that they can basically count on to vote their way.”
“So it’s really a bigger issue,” he added, “and that’s why the left fights voter ID or any kind of picture ID to know that it is actually a registered voter who’s voting. And so it’s something we’re working on all over the country, because in the states where they do have voter ID laws you’ve seen, actually, elections begin to change towards more conservative candidates.”
This past weekend something truly historic was set in motion. The 2016 Democracy Awakening was a first-of-its-kind event, uniting multiple movements working to promote voting rights and money in politics reform as well as advocating for fair consideration of the president’s nominee to the Supreme Court. Environmentalists, social justice advocates, organized labor, and communities of faith all came together to demand a government that works for everyone, not just those with the biggest bank accounts who can buy access and influence at the expense of everyone else.
The Democracy Awakening began on Saturday, April 16, with a day of workshops, trainings and film screenings and concluded on Monday April 18th with a Congress of Conscience where hundreds of people were arrested on the steps of the capitol as a massive crowd rallied alongside in solidarity. The Democracy Awakening peaked on Sunday afternoon, with a rally with thousands in attendance on the National Mall followed by a march in front of the Capitol and Supreme Court. Chants of “Money Out, People In” and “Do Your Job” could be heard reverberating off federal buildings as marchers took over the streets.
More than 300 organizations came together to participate in the Democracy Awakening and promote it to their members, demanding that Congress pass four particular bills, two that promote voting rights and two that promote money in politics reform. Additionally the Democracy Awakening demands that the Senate give fair consideration to the President’s Supreme Court nominee, which means hearings and an up-and-down vote. Many of the organizations that collaborated on this event had previously never worked together, and there is a collective sense that things are just getting started, and that we won’t stop until we have a government that is of, by and for the people.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the influential anti-immigration operative who has been involved in both Donald Trump’s border wall policy and the immigration case currently before the Supreme Court, called into question President Obama’s birthplace on his radio program this weekend.
In response to a caller who wondered if the Obama administration’s opposition to restrictive voting laws such as a proof-of-citizenship requirement in Kansas is because the president himself is “not a citizen of the United States,” Kobach said that there are “interesting things” about the question of Obama’s citizenship that “just made you scratch your head.” He added that “maybe” the caller’s theory about the president’s opposition to voting restrictions was correct.
Kobach was speaking on his radio program on Kansas City’s KCMO on Sunday about a column in the Kansas City Star — which Kobach calls the “Kansas City Red Star” — blasting him for his role in enacting restrictive voting laws in Kansas and around the nation, when a listener identified as “Jim from Iowa” called in.
Jim told Kobach he didn’t understand “what the big deal” was about a law championed by Kobach requiring people to present proof of citizenship when registering to vote “because our president, his little grandma said he was born in Africa, he waited two years before he sent out that fake birth certificate, he got a scholarship to a place, a college in California that only gives it to foreigners, so what’s the difference?”
(Just to be clear, Obama’s grandmother did not say he was born in Kenya,his birth certificate is not fake, and he did not get a scholarship meant for foreign students.)
At first, Kobach didn’t address the birther issue, noting instead that Obama is indeed “opposed to Kansas” and “doesn’t like voter ID laws.”
But the caller persisted, saying, “He’s not going to bring up proof of citizenship because he’s not a citizen of the United States, he’s not supposed to be the president, his own grandma said he was born in Africa, what else do you need? And that birth certificate thing was all fake, it took him two years, like I said, to get it sent out. How did he get the scholarship to that college in California that only foreign people get it? How did he get that? How come everybody lets it go?”
“You know, you’re right,” Kobach responded, “and of course that issue’s kind of water under the bridge these days, but there were some interesting things. Like there was that one thing, it just made you scratch your head, there was that one thing that the Harvard Law Journal printed which described Barack Obama as a ‘young student born in Kenya.’ Now, he says that was wrong, and maybe it was wrong, but anyway, maybe you’re right, maybe that’s why he doesn’t talk about proof of citizenship, because he, you know, he would rather not bring up the citizenship issue. Of course, now he’s got nothing to worry about, he’s in office for the remaining year.”
(We don’t know what head-scratching “Harvard Law Journal” article Kobach was referring to, but he could have been getting it mixed up with a promotional flier for one of Obama’s books that mistakenly described him as being born in Kenya, which birthers have made much of.)
When Jim asked if Obama could still “get in trouble” for lying about his birthplace, Kobach responded that “at this point there’s not really any forum in which the facts will be further” examined.
“Well, why didn’t everybody do something about this eight years ago?” Jim demanded.
“Well,” Kobach said, “as you may recall, there was quite a kerfuffle about it back then.”
“Did you notice everybody that was complaining, they shut up like overnight?” Jim said. “I think they were all threatened just like Old Lady Clinton threatens everybody if you don’t do what she wants. I think they’re all threatened, that’s why they all shut up real fast.”
“Well, who knows?” Kobach said. “That whole issue has been a truly strange one, that’s for sure.”
Speakers including Rev. William Barber II, Cornell William Brooks, Dolores Huerta, Kathleen Turner call for money in politics reforms, filling the Supreme Court vacancy, protection of voting rights
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, thousands of people from across the country joined the Rally for Democracy at the U.S. Capitol, as part of the three-day ‘Democracy Awakening.’ The rally featured national leaders, celebrities, and performers, all sending a message to Congress to reform democracy to ensure that every voice is heard.
Rally speakers called for money in politics reforms, filling the Supreme Court vacancy, and the protection of voting rights. Key speakers included Cornell William Brooks, president and CEO of the NAACP; Rev. William Barber, pastor and Moral Monday architect; Dolores Huerta, civil rights leader; Kathleen Turner, award-winning actress and advocate; Ellen Weintraub, Federal Election Commission Commissioner; and many other leaders and activists from across the country. Key statements from these and others are below.
After the rally, attendees marched around the Capitol and past the Supreme Court, ending at Columbus Circle for a faith vigil. Faith leaders told the story of “The Golden Calf” and explained how idolatry of money in the United States today is stifling our democracy and underscores why we must get money out of politics
In addition to today’s events, ‘Democracy Awakening’ events included teach-ins on Saturday. On Monday, hundreds of people – including 60 organization leaders and high-profile individuals – will risk arrest while others participate in a day of advocacy urging members of Congress to fill the Supreme Court vacancy, protect voting rights, and curb the influence of corporations and the wealthy in politics.
More than 300 organizations have endorsed the landmark mobilization. It is a broad coalition of organizations representing the labor, peace, environmental, student, racial justice, civil rights and money in politics reform movements. People are coming from throughout the country, by bus (19 states), air, van and car. They are coming from such states as Michigan, Kentucky, Florida, Connecticut, Tennessee and California.
Key statements from today’s events:
Marge Baker, executive vice president of People For the American Way: “This is a movement moment. Americans feel enormous frustration towards a system where voters have to stand in lines for hours, where every day Americans can’t be heard over the roar of big money, and where some members of Congress are trying to prevent our courts from functioning. Congress has solutions in front of them, and we’re going to keep making noise until our elected leaders take action to create a democracy that works for all of us.”
The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, pastor and Moral Monday architect: “Fifty years after the signing of the Voting Rights Act, we have seen the Supreme Court nullify its preclearance protections while congressional leadership has refused to fix it for more than two years. This is immoral, an attack on our democracy, and a threat to the furtherance of every other progressive ideal – we cannot stand quietly by. We must now stand up all over the country and reawaken the spirit of true democracy.”
Cornell William Brooks, president and CEO of the NAACP: ““The right to vote is the closest thing we have to a civic sacrament. It is enshrined in our temple of democracy. Yet we are going into the first presidential election in 50 years without the full protection of the Voting Rights Act. When more than 33 states pass new laws requiring a photo ID to vote, but cut back and shut down the government offices where voters can obtain the required cards, the need to act is clear. This is a profound challenge and assault on our democracy. That is why we are here today. An NAACP member by the name of the Rev. James Edmund Prioleau, my grandfather, stood for the right to vote 70 years ago. I stand in his name--and his legacy stands with us.”
Tefere Gebre, executive vice president of the AFL-CIO: “The AFL-CIO is proud to be part of this Democracy Awakening. The unions of the AFL-CIO are committed to broadening our democracy – to having the voices and votes of working people heard. That’s why we will continue to fight the corrupting influence of corporate cash.”
Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch: "It’s time to be bold and visionary. Only a massive grassroots movement can build the political power necessary for taking back our democracy and ousting the plutocrats who’ve stolen it. That’s why I’m thrilled to be one of thousands rallying this weekend at Democracy Awakening—supporting calls to restore voting rights and repeal Citizen’s United. I’m proud that Food & Water Watch is one of the more than 200 groups coalescing to demand that people and the environment are prioritized over profits.”
Jim Hightower, radio commentator and activist: “Democracy Awakening is us – grassroots people rising up to restore our sovereignty over big money. Progress on every one of our issues is hopelessly walled in by corporate bribery funds, K Street lobbyists, crony capitalism, Koch-headed ideology, and nefarious voter suppression. This is the start of something big, and we want you to be there to help make democracy happen again.”
Dolores Huerta, civil rights leader and People For the American Way board member: “Without a strong democracy movement, we won’t be able to make progress on the biggest issues we face: climate change, immigration reform, protecting workers’ rights, raising the minimum wage, empowering women and so much more. I’m coming to D.C. this month to demand that Congress listen to the American people and stop blocking democracy reforms. Si se puede!”
William H. Lamar IV, pastor at the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church, Washington, D.C.: “Now is the time for a new politics to emerge in this nation. Poor and working class Americans now know what Black Americans have always known. The myth that holds America captive is fraudulent. Persons cannot hope to rise by hard work and determination when the political system is rigged to favor big money and highest bidder public policy. Democracy will not be given to the people by those who have purchased the people’s government. The people must accumulate power – across dividing lines – and demand something new. People power must supplant money power! Money is not speech. Money corrupts speech. Undisclosed money corrupts absolutely!”
Annie Leonard, executive director of Greenpeace USA: “A functional democracy is a precondition for a healthy environment, economy and society. The daily protests may slow after the Democracy Spring and the Democracy Awakening, but the movement will continue to grow. The people have made it too big and too strong to ignore.”
The Rev. Ezra L. Tillman Jr., pastor of First Trinity Missionary Baptist Church in Flint, Michigan and member of People For the American Way Foundation’s Micah Leadership Council: “As a father, husband and pastor in Flint, Michigan, I have experienced personally and through the lives of my members and friends, the kind of tragedy that can happen when democracy is threatened. When elected persons place non-elected persons in positions to value cost-cutting budgets above the health and well-being of everyday people, democracy is threatened. I’m coming to D.C. for the Democracy Awakening because democracy is not for some but for all. This is a Humanity Matters issue. We stand united, with a unified message, that it's time to choose the well-being of People over Politics.”
Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen: “Fundamental reform to expand and deepen our democracy, we know from America’s history, follows from one thing and one thing only: mass movements. With our democracy in crisis, now is the time for Americans to mobilize to ensure the right to vote and to get Big Money out of politics. Democracy Awakening is the start of something, not the end, as the democracy movement enters a new phase of intensity, mobilization, aggressive activism and disruption of business as usual.”
For pictures from the event, more information on the ‘Democracy Awakening,’ or to schedule an interview, please email Angela Bradbery (email@example.com) or Laura Epstein (firstname.lastname@example.org).
As thousands of activists from around the country head to Washington, DC for the Democracy Awakening, a weekend of marches, rallies, workshops, lobby visits, and – for some – nonviolent civil disobedience, PFAW hosted a member telebriefing Thursday about the upcoming mobilization. Through the Democracy Awakening, Americans are demanding that Congress take action to fix our democracy, from protecting voting rights to getting big money out of politics to giving the president’s Supreme Court nominee fair consideration.
“These are all connected issues,” PFAW Executive Vice President Marge Baker said on the call. She emphasized that auctioning off democracy “to the highest bidder,” suppressing the vote, or obstructing justice through Republican senators’ “absurd and totally indefensible” position that President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee shouldn’t be given fair consideration are all threats to our democracy.
“We have to take back the engines of our government for the American people,” Baker said.
PFAW Government By the People Campaign Manager Rio Tazewell outlined the schedule for the weekend and noted that even people who can’t travel to DC can still take action in their own towns through letters to the editor, contacting elected representatives, and taking action on social media.
You can listen to the full telebriefing below, and visit www.democracyawakening.org for more information: